There was standing-room only at a packed public meeting at Penarth Pier Pavilion last night for the official launch of a consultation exercise to establish the degree of support for a new attempt to build a ‘Headland Link’ from Penarth Esplanade along the rocky shoreline to the Cardiff Bay Barrage.
For the first time the full list of the names of the group of individuals behind the scheme were announced, more details of the scheme itself were released and the people of Penarth had their first chance to see what the scheme might look like – and ask questions about it.
This iteration of the Headland Link is predicted to cost half the budget-busting total of £26,000,000 estimated for the previous 2007 scheme . It would comprise a rock-fill causeway running along the shore at a distance from the cliff face varying between 15 metres and 25 metres (to avoid any danger of rockfalls) .
Along the top of the causeway will be a 6.5 metre wide thoroughfare which will have dedicated lanes for cyclists and for disabled users .It will be wide enough for emergency vehicles and for road trains to use.
At the Penarth end, plans are less clear but it’s envisaged the causeway would be connected to a car park and a commercial / retailing “plaza” which it’s hoped might generate the funding required to maintain the entire length of the structure .
This edifice would be mostly hidden from view behind the cliff and would not be as high as the old – and now “much missed” – multi-storey car park demolished by the Vale of Glamorgan council in the early ’90s.
On the foreshore the causeway will be built higher than the existing groynes which are built out at right angles from the cliff, but will not be high enough to avoid over-topping at exceptionally high spring tides . On these occasions, like Penarth Pier , the causeway would be closed. The causeway will be “porous” – i.e. unlike the Cardiff Bay Barrage, the tide will flow through it – rather than around it .
It’s been established that there are three different freeholders who own parts of the foreshore which are not in public ownership (a substantial chunk of the foreshore was acquired by the War Office more than a century ago and subsequently sold off) .
The meeting was introduced by the chairman of the group promoting the project, Mr Brendan Sadka (a business consultant from Sully who works for Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust) . He introduced the other members of the group comprising :-
- David Trotman – former director of Penarth Pier Pavilion,
- Peter Bussell (group secretary who is also secretary of Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd ),
- Roger Thomas (retired solicitor formerly of Eversheds) ,
- Gabe Traherne (ex Arup civil engineer and Vice chair of the Council of Cardiff University) ,
- Peter Morgan (chartered accountant formerly trustee of National Museum of Wales and of PACL),
- Jim Leighton (quantity surveyor),
- John Lovell (ex Arup civil engineer),
- Alun Michael (former Labour MP and current South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner),
- Richard Reed (accountant at Deloittes)
- Paul Twamley (the former chairman of PACL who resigned earlier this year and works in Dubai)
The group first met in December last year to initiate the project (which has been kept confidential up to now) and had negotiated access to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s files on the previous Headland Link project. The audience was told many local professionals had contributed work on a “pro-bono” basis and that members of the School of Civil Engineering and of Cardiff University and Cardiff Business School were also assisting.
Mr Sadka – in outlining the CVs of the team behind the project – said he was “frankly humbled“.
It was left to the Mayor of Penarth, Cllr Rosemary Cook (Labour St Augustines) – sitting in the audience, to point out (to applause) the obvious flaw – i.e. that the group consisted entirely of men and that there were no women on the team. She was not offering her own services but hoped that women would be encouraged to join the project.
There was some hasty back-tracking at this point and the audience was assured that different “skillsets” would be required at later stages of the project.
Dr David Trotman said the group was “constituting itself into an organisation with charitable objectives ” and spelled out the details of the structure and function of the Headland Link. It would begin at the “Dardanelles” area of the [Northern] promenade and run for 1.1 km to join the Cardiff Bay Barrage at the Custom House.
Dr Trotman said he had been asked whether the structure would incorporate a car park. Dr Trotman said “We are looking at that potential “ – but if it was built it would go at the Dardanelles end.
The potential car park would adjoin a “plaza” – a place where there would be space for retail and catering businesses.
Dr Trotman said “It’s a bit different from the original car park which a lot of people seem to miss . It has a low-level situation and hides under the contours of the cliff face” .
Dr Trotman said it was hoped this structure would come in at “under half” the £26,000,000 estimated for the original scheme . He would be looking at a “suite of funders to raise that particular amount of money”. He said that, as with the Pier Pavilion, it would be necessary to look at “multi-stream funding”.
Dr Trotman said it would necessary to” look at what benefits the walkway could bring and attach those benefits to the criteria of funding bodies”. It could involve the National Lottery, the private sector and the UK Government but the group was “not looking a local authorities because they are going through a hard time at the moment . ”
He said 1,000,000 people walked Cardiff Bay Barrage every year. The walkway would give people a flat easy onward route to the Esplanade. If only 10% of those came to Penarth, that would be 100,000 people – each possibly spending £5 to £10 in Penarth which would make a signficant contribution to the local economy.
There would also be health benefits for patients in local hospitals – including the enlarged mental health unit at Llandough. The facility would also provide exercise benefits for medical staff at Llandough and Rookwood.
Dr Trotman said the walkway would also provide a commuter route and would also provide educational opportunities for young people studying the strata of rocks and the ecology of the sea-shore .
He said this was the “missing link” – the missing part of the Wales Coastal Pathway, but told the audience “We are dependant on you – and on a positive response from the people of Penarth”. Likewise, a positive response from the people of Cardiff would also be sought at a similar public meeting in the city in the New Year new year with a view to “bringing the communities together” .
Dr Trotman’s final point, made – as he said – “as a father and a grandfather” was perhaps the most powerful: – “This structure will be here for years and years. It’s for our children and our grandchildren and children yet unborn. It’s something which will really cement a wonderful town with its capital city – and vice versa”,
There followed a question and answer session – but as there was no public address system in use, some members of the audience were finding it difficult to hear what was being said by the panel of speakers representing the group behind the scheme – so all members were asked to “speak up”.
EROSION: The first questioner – from Sully – applauded the initiative of the sponsors but asked why it had not been pointed out that this proposed causeway would result in a “fantastic improvement in the lack of erosion of the cliff “. Dr Trotman ruefully admitted – to laughter from the audience – that he had “missed that point”.
NAME : The chairman of Group 617 – the 40-strong group of former veterans dealing with the aftermath of their military service – suggested that the Headland Link be called “The Veterans’ Way” . He was told it was “still early days” and the group was not in a position make such an undertaking yet but would note the suggestion.
FORESHORE OWNERSHIP: A question on the ownership of some sections of the foreshore – a problem which had contributed to the collapse of the previous scheme in 2006/7 came next. Group member Roger Thomas said discussions had been opened with two of the three major owners of sections of the foreshore and were seeking to make contact with the third . The group would require “appropriate title” before the project continued. Mr Andrew Willmott – representing the Whannell family (one of the three private owners of parts of the Headland foreshore) and said (to warm applause) that 90-year-old Mrs Caroline Whannell, who was celebrating her 70th wedding anniversary, and her daughter were with him in the audience. Mr Willmott said “I would hate to think that we were one of those who brought the last plan to an end, but it certainly wasn’t our intention” and said the family would like to converse with the group and be “very positive towards the scheme”.
ESPLANADE DEVELOPMENT: Asked whether development plans for the Penarth end of the causeway involved residential development , the panel replied that it did not . The development concerned was the car park – part of which would be given over to space for retail/catering outlets. There would be no “domestic” development.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MONEY LAST TIME? : Audience member, Geraldine Martin, asked about “£9,000,000” of public money which had been lost when the previous Headland Link scheme had collapsed . She asked “Is any of that retrievable now? Where did it go?”. The panel said it believed it had “gone back to the Welsh Government” and was “probably now lost out of sight”.
SEATING/CYCLISTS: Ms Louise Lush asked whether there would be seating on the causeway and criticised the seating on the Cardiff Bay Barrage which was not user-friendly, had no back support and was not suitable for older people and children. Dr Trotman said it was important for such points to be logged by the panel so that it could put the appropriate seating in . Similarly he said cyclists had specified a certain width in which they could cycle comfortably – particularly with a child buggy at the back .This had to be delineated so that “walkers don’t get in their way”. The cycle symbols on the Cardiff Barrage were, he said, “too far apart ” and walkers were unaware it was a cycle pathway. Taking such points on board at this stage made the group’s job easier.
PARKS : Martin Gossage of the Friends of Belle Vue Park reminded the panel that Penarth is known as “The Garden By the Sea” and stressed the importance of directing incoming visitors towards Penarth’s public parks rather than their by-passing the parks by going straight up the Dolly Steps into the town.
BARRAGE ROADWAY: Another Penarth resident asked if there was an intention to have a “roadway for vehicles” along the Headland Link. He was assured there was no intention in the current design for “public vehicles” to use the causeway but there would be a need for maintenance and emergency vehicles to use it.
BARRIERS/ STONE: Another questioner was told that some barriers would probably be required to close the causeway in some circumstances . The structure would be built out of steeply inclined boulders – similar to the rock armour north of the pier – but there would be points along the causeway at which people would be able to descend safely to the shore. There will be consultations with Penarth Coastguard and Fire and Rescue Services.
LIGHTING: Andrew Kelland asked whether the causeway would have lights along its length and was told that for safety reasons lighting would be required.
CONSTRUCTION PHASE: The group was asked what plans it had to minimise the construction phase . Most construction materials and traffic – the audience was told – would , subject to negotiations , come from the Cardiff end and the build move progressively south. The car park would be built at the Penarth end, with some plant and materials coming via Penarth but it was the intention that bulk of construction traffic would come via the “Cardiff end” .
RECYCLING: The panel was asked what recycled materials would be used in the project and whether the tidal force be sued in any way to help educate children or “help with the lighting”. The panel said it would be using natural materials but was examining the possible use of some waste materials . On tidal energy the audience was told what if someone could think of a clever way to use tidal power the group would be delighted but it did present educational opportunities for young people to learn about the tides and tidal power.
QUARRIED MATERIALS: One audience member asked where the materials would come from . The panel said the material would be “quarried stone” and there were “quite a large number of quarries in South Wales” which could provide the stone required.
RUBBISH ON THE BEACH: The panel was asked whether it had considered that rubbish and flotsam might collect on the landward side of the causeway where it would be “stuck on the stones” rather than been cleared by the tide twice a day. The panel said this clearance would have to be part of the maintenance regime. It was confirmed that the causeway would be porous and the tide would go in and out through it. It was pointed out that Penarth Beach is cleaned regularly not by the tide but by volunteer beach wardens.
GROYNES AND GEOLOGY: It was confirmed the causeway would be above the level of the groynes. Any pieces of material from the cliff face would fall off and bounce down the beach but the causeway would be far enough away from them. In the most dangerous areas a row of block stones might be installed as an additional safety measure . Sitting and walking on the causeway presented “different levels of risk”. If people were seated it might be necessary to put blockstones behind the seats as additional protection.
EROSION:An audience member wanted to know if any thought had been given to erosion further along the coast at Lavernock .The panel said this would be part of the assessments but the judgement was that it would not .
ROCK FALLS: One questioner said there had been a “1,000 tonne rock fall” in April – and asked how far would the walkway be from the cliff? The panel said the distance between the cliff face and the causeway would vary from 15 metres in them “more secure” areas to 25 metres and maybe more in areas of greater danger. There were slabs of limestone very high up – about “the size of a big cushion” . If one of those came down and started “bouncing around” that was the big danger which the experts on the panel worried about. The causeway would be “way above the beach” and a “very substantial” distance away from the cliff face.
PLANTING ON CLIFF-FACE: An audience member Andrew Kellan suggested that the cliff face be planted with vegetation to minimise the danger of falling rock bouncing off it but the panel doubted very much whether anything could be induced to grow there. Sand would be a better surface to minimise this risk.
LEGAL PROCESSES. Before preparation and construction could begin the panel said it was essential to go through legal processes and obtain the necessary regulatory approvals and the group would need to raise the money . Money raising – which was essential to instruct the professionals to begin work – would begin in the New Year . The planning process would be long . Construction – once started – could take a year. After construction of the causeway itself was completed the group said they might want the sea to “hit it for some time” before finally concluding the pathway along the top.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT RE-ORGANISATION: The potential re-organisation of local Government in Wales and the proposed merger of the Vale of Glamorgan Council was not seen as being an immediate problem.
COMMUNICATIONS AND LEAFLET: Only lady in the audience said there had been nothing in the leaflet published by the group to say who they were or where they were based or how they could be contacted. Dr David Trotman said the group was not yet in a position to set up an office base or a social media contact . This was the first stage in which the group had been able to make contact with the public . Members of the audience had been asked on forms (left on the seats) to leave their contact details and indicate whether they were in favour of the project . When the group had the necessary funding to open a social media hub it would contact respondents via email or by phone. There would be an “update” meeting in six months’ time by which time the group hoped to have an email contact and a base. When pressed, the group said that those who left their email addresses at the pavilion on paper would receive the email address of the group within the next couple of weeks.
After the presentation was over, many in the audience commented that there had not been a single negative query about the project ; all the audience-response had been positive.
It seems as though – unlike its ill-starred predecessor – this Headland Link might just happen.
PDN’s full story of the disappearance of Penarth’s “much-missed” multi-storey car park is on http://tinyurl.com/nqykvfz